UX is User Experience. This refers to the experience that a user has when visiting a website and specifically, how it will take you from the landing page onward. This is distinct from UI (User Interface) in that it considers not just the appearance of the site but also the flow from one point to the next. When designing a website, it is crucial that you consider not only the way that it looks, but also the way that it performs and the way that the user interacts with it.
After all, a website is not just a static block of text to be read. Unlike, say, a book or a magazine, a website is interactive. This means that the user will have an input, and this will change the information that is presented to them. What’s important is that this interaction is as seamless as possible. This is what encourages the user to stay on your website and it is what ensures that they can get the right information without becoming lost and/or frustrated. This is what we refer to as the user experience.
What is User Experience?
When thinking about web design it's crucial to keep in mind the dynamic nature of a website. This is not a static page that a user simply looks at and reads but rather it's a moving and changing selection of interlinked pages and information. That's why the term 'user experience' is particularly valid: it's not just about making a site that looks nice, it's about making something that's intuitive and enjoyable to use and that will have the impact you want on your visitors.
So, what makes great experience design? Well that's a complex question that we don't have space to answer here. Nevertheless, we can certainly identify a few of the best practices and basic tips that will provide you with a basic introduction and foundation to the world of experience design.
Most important of all is that when your users land on your site, they know how to reach the pages and the information they want so that they don't get 'stuck'. Attention spans among web-users are infamously short and this can lead to high bounce rates, so if your visitors need to think even for a minute about how to get to the next page they're most likely to simply give up.
Communicate, Don't Decorate
This is a powerful and useful maxim for web designers to keep in mind. What it means is that every element in your web design should have some useful purpose other than to simply 'look nice'. You have limited screen real-estate and the more pointless flourishes you introduce the more cramped and confusing your design will be. Look at modern web design and you'll notice there is much less in the way of 'controls' (known as 'chrome') than there was previously. If you can make do without it, then do!
When designing your web design you need to think about where your users are going to look and how this will work to your advantage. Ideally you want certain elements of your site to jump out at them so that you direct them naturally through the flow of your content. You can direct attention using contrasting colours and smart placement. Even the direction and orientation of images used on your site can subtly influence the direction of your visitors' attention and must be considered carefully.
Typically, we consume information and media from left to right, top to bottom and we will follow the direction of arrows, of images of people looking in a direction, etc.
The 'F' Pattern
Something that works to your advantage here is the fact that most web users will follow a fairly predictable pattern when they visit any site. The 'F pattern' describes the pattern that they tend to follow with their gaze when they navigate to any new site. First our eyes will look to the top of the site (which is why your branding should go here), then we will look down the left hand column (which is why this is a popular spot for the main menu) and then we will look across the screen about a third of the way down (a good spot for a secondary menu).
Remember that not everyone will be visiting your sites on the same devices – in fact, most will not! It's crucial that you provide the same excellent UX for visitors with iPhones as you do for users on Windows PCs. This once meant ensuring that you had a separate mobile site, but today it means ensuring that your site is mobile responsive. That means it will change shape to adapt to the display viewing it. Use a responsive WordPress theme, add your own design tweaks and be sure to check Google’s own Mobile Friendliness test.
As you can see then, great user experience is about making a number of carefully considered choices. We can help you with those choices and with the implementation that will truly engage your visitors and provide the best experience possible.
UX vs UI
You might be wondering at this point what the difference between the user experience and the user interface is. Both these terms are similar and to an extent can be used interchangeably. However, user experience is generally a somewhat broader term and tends to describe not only your navigational elements, not only your design elements but also the transition between them. It describes the flow of the navigation around your website and the way that your users experience those transitions.
Likewise, UX can also describe a multi-modal experience – meaning that it could also encompass an app, or a product itself. This is all of the ways that you divulge information to your users and the entire way that they ‘experience’ your brand. Your job is to make that experience as positive as possible, so they stay longer and come back more frequently.